Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Doing Something About Racial Justice

One of the things I hear over and over again, when it comes to our racial justice work here, is that we love to talk about things (over and over and over), and keep offering consciousness raising, but if that's all that we do it's really empty posturing.

I get that. (Although I do think that consciousness raising IS doing something for those who still don't understand concepts like white privilege, white supremacy, institutional racism, microagressions, and the like. The more of us folks who think of ourselves as white that "get it," the better for us all. This is part of the work that needs to be done.)

A big part of the work that is ours as a predominantly white congregation is simply showing up and listening to what the actual needs and visions of the African American community (and other communities of color). So here are some things you can do ...
  • Join the NAACP and attend their meetings on the 2nd Monday of the month ... and listen. (Get involved as it's called for).
  • Go to the next African American Town Hall at Tonsler Park on Sunday April 17th (5:30) ... and listen. (Get involved as it's called for.)
  • Stop by the Racial Justice table in the Social Hall following Sunday morning services and pick up an article or essay about the ongoing conversation about race that is happening in our country now.
  • Keep up to date with what's happening in the #Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Visit the website Ferguson National Response Network, which is a "listing of planned response events for #Ferguson and all police brutatlity & racial injustice nationwide." (This might be a good source of ideas for us to consider ...)
  • Attend a meeting of our Racial Justice Task Force (which meets at 7:00 pm on the 3rd Sunday of the month) and see how your energy and interests might best serve.
  • Sign up for the weekly email from University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) which will keep you up to date on things going on in our community.
  • If you're on Facebook, "like" the Black Professionals of Charlottesville community page for much the same reason.
  • Join the UU organization Allies for Racial Equity, and "like" their Facebook page. While you're at it, you could join the Facebook pages for Are UU Awake, Black Lives UU, UUs Resisting New Jim Crow & Mass Incarceration.  Here again, these are largely places for those of us who are seen as white to listen and learn.  Still, the discussions happening within our Association are important, and there are many opportunities to get involved in doing things that make a difference.
  • Go to the Jefferson School and visit the permanent exhibit, Pride Overcomes Prejudice and learn about the African American history of Charlottesville.
  • Download the digital app from the Jefferson School and take a self-guided walk through that history.  (Android and iOS)
  • Attend the Unveiling of the historic marker for the Daughters of Zion Cemetery on Sunday, May 29 at 2:00pm (There will be a reception afterward at Barrett Early Learning Center.)
Remember, we are TJMC. Each and every one of us. None of us needs to wait for "the church" to do something, because "the church" is us. On the other hand, we, as a congregation, are doing work in the community:
  • RevWik is developing personal relationships with, among others: Pastor Lehman Bates at Ebenezer Baptist Church; Rev. Alvin Edwards, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Charlene Greene at the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights; Imam Tyler Roach of the Islamic Society of Central Virginia; and our new Vice Mayor, Wes Bellamy. One of the reasons is to lay stronger foundations on which to build greater opportunity for TJMC to work in partnership with people and groups in the African American Community. (Of course, people like Elizabeth Breeden, Pete Armetta, Edith Good, Sara Gondwe, and others have had these relationships for years!)
  • We are already active participants in the Back to School Bash, the Thanksgiving Basket Drive, and the annual MLK Community Celebration, among other things. While we are active participants, we could always be more active.
  • IMPACT, which you hear so much about, strives to make a real difference for the entire Charlottesville/Albemarle community, and our involvement makes us part of the largest interfaith, multiracial group in our area. (IMPACT's annual Nehemiah Action will be on May 3rd. Help TJMC demonstrate our commitment to justice for all in our community by saying "yes" when asked to attend the Action!)
We are doing a lot as a congregation.  We could be doing more.  Many of our members are doing a lot.  There is room for more people to get involved.  TJMC is a large enough congregation that it's simply not possible for any one person to know everything that's going on here.  But if you feel you're done talking and having your consciousness raised and want to roll up your sleeves and do something (besides the things suggested here), contact Sara Gondwe, who convenes the Racial Justice Steering Committee, or contact RevWik.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Social Justice Spotlight -- Racial Justice Steering Committee

Begining in January (2016) we have begun taking a moment at the begining of our Sunday morning sactuary worship, on the first Sunday of each month, to highlight one of our own, internal, social justice efforts.  (Much as on the third Sunday of each month we highlight the work of a group in the community as part of our Social Justice Collection.)  This is the text of our spotlight for this month:  the Racial Justice Steering Committee.

For quite a while, now, on the third Sunday of each month we take a special collection – our Social Justice Collection – to support a non-profit in our area that is doing work we believe in and would like to support.  As part of that service we invite a representative of the group to come up at this point and tell us about what it is that they do and, for many of us, even more importantly they try to give us a little flavor of why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Well, we have some groups, within our congregation, that are doing some really cool things too, things we believe in and would like to support.  And so, beginning with the New Year, on the first Sunday of each month we’ll take time for a Social Justice Spotlight – not a special collection, but an opportunity for us all to learn about the good things that some of us are doing and, again, get a flavor of the why.

Last month I told you about the IHS Meal Packets ministry.  This month the spotlight is on our Racial Justice Steering Committee.  This group, begun just this year, is in some ways a resurrection of the Undoing Racism Committee of several years ago.  It serves as a coordinating and support group for a variety of things we’re doing under the umbrella of racial justice.  There’s a group that is working to bring to our attention a public witness statement in support of, and solidarity with, the national Black Lives Matter movement.  There are those who make sure that there’s a table in the Social Hall each Sunday where people can get articles, blog posts, and other sources of information to keep up to date with how the discussion of race and racism in our country continues to unfold.  There are people working to develop and deepen relational partnerships with people and groups of color in the wider community, and there are people looking at ways to offer us opportunities for deeper learning about systemic racism, white privilege, and things we can do both internally and externally to address conditions of oppression.  (The Beloved Conversations program that about 25 of us are currently engaged with is an excellent example.)

There are many, many people involved in all of these efforts, and any one could provide the why of this work.  Sara Gondwe is the convener and facilitator of our Racial Justice Steering Committee, so I’m going to quote from something she wrote to me:

At the first [UU] service I [ever] attended [as a child] I was amazed that two greyhound buses had been chartered to take UU's to the white only suburb of Ciscero, outside of Chicago, to demonstrate for open housing.  I did not go but I was impressed that here was a church that not only took a stand against racial justice but was moved to action also.  I watched on t.v. as they peacefully marched down the streets.  I was shocked at the hatred spewn at them, as well as spit and bricks.  I have been a UU ever since.”

[… A]s a University student, racial injustice continued to bother me. My UU faith comforted, encouraged and sustained me as I participated in civil disobedience exercises.  I engaged in everything as I thought we could change the world.  Anti-war demonstrations, learning from anti-apartheid group about the gross injustice in South Africa, fighting for African-American academic departments, learning about the Black Panther Movement, being so aware of our history …

I do this work, because I can not NOT do it and my UU Faith compels me to take a stand against any kind of injustice.